Where there are youth sports, there is abuse by parents of officials, coaches and, yes, sometimes players. Not only do yelling, insults and physical confrontation discourage the athletes, they model bad behavior. In extreme, but all too common, instances, they break the law.
As video footage of parents and coaches putting sometimes-violent pressure on athletes mounts, so do the reasons kids quit sports. No wonder a 2010 survey by the Awards and Personalization Association found more than 65 percent of Americans believe the current state of sportsmanship is worse than it was when they were growing up.
“The problem has always existed with adults acting out of control and behaving inappropriately, but it is occurring more frequently these days due in large part to many adults believing scholarships and roster spots on travel teams are at stake every time they step on the field,” says Greg Bach, vice president of communications for the National Alliance for Youth Sports.
Mark Lord, executive director of the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation, led the TAAF transition to an official parent behavior program in 2003 called S.M.A.R.T. Parents for Youth Sports. TAAF, a nonprofit with more than 150 municipal parks and recreation members, runs state championships in 10 sports, as well as two multisport festivals, in summer and spring. In a two-year period, the program is responsible for the number of police calls at youth events dropping from more than 100 to only one.